The potential for talcum powder to cause ovarian cancer and other health problems could lead to new restrictions in Canada.
Earlier this week, Health Canada published its recently-completed draft screening assessment on the health effects of talc.
Overall, most uses of talc appeared safe. However, Health Canada did find evidence that genital talc use might increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer.
This evidence included 21 studies (out of 29 conducted) that suggested either a possible or positive relationship between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.
Furthermore, the assessment linked the inhalation of loose talcum powder to respiratory issues, including chronic cough, breathing problems, and decreased lung function.
Health Canada is now considering measures that would restrict the use of talc in cosmetics, over-the-counter drugs, and natural health products. However, the agency can’t take any further action until a final assessment is published.
The draft screening assessment and Risk Management Scope is open for public comment until February 6, 2019.
Muhannad Malas, toxics program manager at Environmental Defence, told The Globe and Mail that it could be years before Health Canada acts.
“There isn’t a timeline,” Mr. Malas said. “In many cases, we’ve seen delays that have lasted many years.”
So far, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has not taken any action to restrict talc in consumer products.
However, plaintiffs in the United States have filed more than 10,000 talcum powder lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of the popular Baby Powder brand. The majority of these cases involve women who allegedly developed ovarian cancer due to the regular and repeated use of talc-based powders for feminine hygiene.
Seven talcum powder lawsuits have already gone to trial in Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis. Just four months ago, a Missouri jury awarded a combined $4.7 billion to 22 talcum powder ovarian cancer plaintiffs.
Four other Missouri trials produced plaintiffs’ verdicts ranging from ranging from $55 million to $417 million. However, two of those verdicts were dismissed.
Two Missouri juries returned verdicts for Johnson & Johnson.
Other talcum powder lawsuits allege Johnson & Johnson’s talc-based powders were tainted with asbestos and caused plaintiffs to develop mesothelioma.
Two juries have found for mesothelioma plaintiffs, including a California case that concluded in May with a $25 million verdict. A month earlier, a New Jersey jury ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $117 million to another mesothelioma plaintiff.
Johnson & Johnson has won four mesothelioma trials, while mistrials have been declared in four other asbestos cases.
Johnson & Johnson vehemently denies that its talcum powders ever contained asbestos and disputes any contention that the products cause cancer. However, plaintiffs claim that the company has known since the 1970s that its talc products contain asbestos and concealed that information from consumers to protect sales.